Morocco, this small country in the North of the African continent has often remained discreet and quiet, but it could really surprise you! Morocco is located on the Northwest part of Africa, only 13 km away from Spain. Its capital city is Rabat with a population of around 33.9 million people. Moroccans speak Modern Standard Arabic and Berber languages, but French is still widely spoken. Ninety-nine percent of the population is Muslim.
#1 The Oldest university in the world is located in Fez, Morocco.
The University of al-Quaraouiyine is considered to be the oldest university in the world that is still operating today. It was founded in 859 AD by Fatima al-Fihri. It is also comprised of an equally old and famous library. It is located in the medina of Fez, which is the oldest imperial city in Morocco.
#2 Fez is a UNESCO-protected site.
Fez is one of the most ancient cities in Morocco and its medina has been declared a world site heritage by the UNESCO. Fez’s medina is often considered the largest car-free area in the world. The medina covers the entire center of the city and is a labyrinth of small streets going up and down. Some streets are large enough to fit only one average-sized person at the time!
#3 Morocco is a popular setting for film shootings.
“Ouallywood”, as it is called, is a popular filming area located in the Saharan desert, in the region of Ouarzazate. The region is home to the Atlas Film Studios. Big blockbusters likes Lawrence of Arabia, The Mummy, Babel, Gladiator, Asterix & Obelix, Kingdom of Heaven, OSS 177, Sex and the City 2 (etc) have been shot there. Interestingly, the movie “Casablanca”, which was an international success and became one of the greatest movies of all times, was not shot in Morocco at all, but in the Warner studios in Los Angeles!
#4 There is a city in Morocco that is completely blue!
Many cities in Morocco are known to have a color whether it is symbolic or not. Marrakesh, for example, is known as the Red City. Chefchaouen’s is blue. This small mountain city is located on the Northern part of Morocco and it is literally blue. In the medina, the walls, streets and houses have all been painted in blue. Some parts are still in the making, but since it has become a popular tourist attraction, you can be sure that these parts will quickly turn blue. The reason of this cobalt color is quite unknown but it is definitely a must-see!
#5 Morocco will become a solar superpower in 2020.
Not too far from Ouallywood, in the region of Ouarzazate, a solar power plant will be established in the Saharan desert by 2020. This installation will be the largest concentrated solar power plant in the world. Thanks to the Saharan sun, but also wind and hydro power, Morocco hopes to produce half of its electricity with renewables and even export some to Europe. When finished, the four plants in Ouarzazate will occupy an area as large as Morocco’s capital city, Rabat, and should be able to power 1 million homes.
#6 Morocco was the last country to join the African Union.
Initially, this fact was supposed to read: “Morocco is the only country of Africa that is not part of the African Union”, but we recently discovered that it was not the case anymore. Morocco, indeed, rejoined the Union this year, after 30 years of absence! It had left the African Union in 1984 over disputed territory of Western Sahara.
#7 Morocco is one of the largest producers of illicit hashish in the world.
Even if it is illegal, it is quite common to smoke cannabis in Morocco. The country has been producing massive loads of hashish that is mostly targeted at Europe and European tourists. The Rif region is particularly known for its hashish production, and the blue city of Chefchaouen, especially. Morocco, in general, has been known to be one of the world’s top suppliers.
#8 White is the color of mourning.
In many countries and cultures, black is the color of mourning, and white is a color of freshness or happiness. In Catholicism at least, white is often the color of clothes for most religious ceremonies (marriage, communion, baptism). In Morocco, the color white is used differently - it is used when in mourning.
The symbol of love is also quite unusual in Morocco. The heart often represents love in many countries, but in Morocco, the liver is the symbol of love!
#9 Tea is the most popular drink in Morocco .
Green tea and especially mint tea with fresh leaves of mint is a very popular drink in Morocco. Brewing and serving tea is often seen as a form of art and is culturally significant. Guests are often offered mint tea, and it is considered rude to refuse it. Locally, it is sometimes called “Moroccan Whiskey”, but do not get mistaken , you will not find any alcohol in Morocco.
#10 Morocco was the first country to recognize the United States as a country.
In 1777, Morocco became the first country in the world to recognize the United States as a new nation. In 1786, Morocco and the USA signed the Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship that, still today, remains the longest standing treaty of the United States (239 years).
Morocco can sometimes be unexpected and surprising! I bet you would not have guessed half of these facts. I you found this article interesting, don’t hesitate to share and comment!
- CIA Website. Retrieved from: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/mo.html
- Morocco World News. Retrieved from: https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2016/02/180472/city-officials-dub-ouarzazate-ouallywood-in-new-festival-title/
- Huffpost Maghreb. Retrieved from: http://www.huffpostmaghreb.com/2017/02/04/cinema-maroc-tournage_n_14597944.html
- Wikipedia. Retrieved from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_Al_Quaraouiyine
- UNESCO Website. Retrieved from: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/170
- Fact Retriever. Retrieved from: https://www.factretriever.com/morocco-facts
- The Guardian. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/oct/26/morocco-poised-to-become-a-solar-superpower-with-launch-of-desert-mega-project
- The Guardian. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/jan/31/morocco-rejoins-african-union-after-more-than-30-years
- The Economist. Retrieved from: https://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21720598-others-use-them-lock-up-restless-young-men-some-arab-governments-are-rethinking
- Facts.net. Retrieved from: http://facts.net/morocco/